Last Friday I was going to the zoo (zoo, zoo) for the last Zoo Lates on this year at London Zoo. Oh I had read so much about this event 'you will be greeted by an anteater!' I was told (by the press, who I planned to hold responsible for my actions if I was not greeted by an anteater), 'You can watch them feed the pygmy hippos - and the hippos demand the food is put directly in their mouth!' I was told by Squeamish Louise, who seems to have had more influence than I'd like on my after school activities as it were. 'I didn't see the lions last time' said my friend Eileen.
But let's hold up a moment. Because some total buzz kills (not buzz kills) will be reading this/harshing on my buzz and noting that it is a terrible shame that these animals are cooped up all day. Yes it is. And no matter how much a zoo invests in aping (total zoo in-joke there) the animals in their care's natural habitat they will never achieve the seemingly endless plains lions in the wild can cross, or jungle monkeys can swing through.
So why give these people money? Well there is the conservation argument - that's probably the strongest. Education about why these animals are possibly better off in London than their natural habitat is important. Our wild (in the insatiable sense) consumerism is pushing animals out of the wild (in the bush sense) which should be driving us wild (in the livid sense).
However, until we can connect our food, our packaging, our living space with consequences outside our immediate surroundings - not to mention extreme poverty being a driving force in illegal trade that impacts on rare animals, we'll probably still be able to crack out a good argument for zoos. We're talking zoos that operate in a highly ethical way, incidentally.
which adult - their face painted like a tiger - faced a long tube journey home alone.
The huge popularity of Zoo Lates is another sign of Generation X's legacy. When they refused to grow up they sat around their parents' basement in flannel shirts writing, or not writing, their novel. When they encroached on childish territory they ecstatically tied dummies around their necks.
Generation Y have taken it further. Evacuating the children in order to cut down on the face-painting queues at the zoo. It was probably my favourite sight at the zoo, wondering which adult - their face painted like a tiger - faced a long tube journey home alone.
However in spite of the childlike feeling Zoo Lates saw adults on their best behaviour. I'm rather short and was frequently ushered to the front by fellow zoo-goers who pointed out the sleeping tiger or flashing monkey butt. When, in the delicious street food court, a man jumped the queue I only had to point out his mistake to be profusely apologise to by both the server and the queue jumper.
I ask hard hitting questions. Do the animals ever escape? Do the animals ever fall in love with other species? These are things the London Zoo staff don't care to divulge. I like to think of a squirrel monkeys being found riding the giraffes around the food court.
We see the giraffes galloping around outside, tiny monkeys leap from tree to tree and are ignored by the sloths in theRainforest Life area. In the Night Life area we squint to see rats (disappointing), chinchillas and bush babies. We learn that the lions and gorillas are freaked out by the animal ears sold to the public, in fact the gorillas won't even let you bring a beer into their kingdom, causing me to wildly anthropomorphize and imagine the animals specify what they will and won't tolerate in their sections - 'I don't want to see any more grown humans in those freaking animal ears'.
On our way out we check back on Tiger Territory. The increasingly rare sleeping Sumatran tiger is now awake and pacing back and forth and all of a sudden I'm not sure how I feel about the zoo (zoo, zoo).
Zoo Lates is now over for the season, for child-free zoo experiences you will have to wait until June 2014. Or break in (don't break in) at night.